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Monday, July 16, 2012

Sonny Landreth

Elemental Journey (Landfall)

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In what may be best described as progressive swamp blues, Louisiana six-string maestro Sonny Landreth eschews his well-practiced brand of down-home boogie, muscled-up roadhouse rock and Cajun-spiced roots for a foray into Joe Satriani territory. No more with the singing, the 12-bars or the guest spots from his old bandleader-cohort John Hiatt. Rather, Elemental is a journey of the cerebral sort, with compositions of gussied-up, hyperbolic workouts of carpal-straining dexterity.

Satriani himself guests, as he should, but so does the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra, and throughout the plucks and swells of the more refined strings lend turns of emotion, billows in mood and cinematic grandiosity. But, mostly, it's still about the chops: sinewy, soaring, sliding seamlessly into boggy riffage, Landreth has seemingly trademarked a touch whereby he appears to be throatily revving his Stratocaster, just before a through-the-levees outburst of sound and a cascade of supple notes.

Elemental
feels like an effort to do as much with his guitar as humanly possible. While purists and novices would do well by the less studio-climate-control, more Mississippi-mud of his earlier albums, this is a work that takes just that—some work. Except, of course, for maybe the geekiest of fretboard freaks—a group with whom Sonny would surely pile his gear.